When black voters gave President Barack Obama 93 percent support on Election Day in defiance of predictions that they might sit it out this year, black leaders breathed a collective sigh of relief.
That encouraged those leaders to try to leverage more attention from both Obama and Congress. Although they waver over how much to demand from the president—particularly in light of defeated GOP challenger Mitt Romney’s assertion that Obama gave “gifts” to minorities in exchange for their votes—they are delivering postelection wish lists to the president anyway.
National Urban League President Marc Morial acknowledged in an interview that “we sweated turnout all the way to the end,” because the country’s underlying economic conditions made it tougher to mobilize black voters. Within days of the election, Morial sent to Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., an “urgent petition” asking that Obama’s second term focus on economic opportunity and income inequality.
A jobs program should emphasize infrastructure and public works, broadband technology and energy “with a special focus on those communities where unemployment is and remains stubbornly and persistently high,” Morial’s letter said.
“We who represent the nation’s urban communities will demand a seat at the table in these discussions,” he wrote.
Blacks made up 15 percent of the electorate in Ohio, up from 11 percent in 2008. And 97 percent of those votes went for Obama, leading Bositis to say Obama’s margin of victory in the state came from black voters.
Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee chairman, said the GOP had an opportunity this election to connect with black voters on unemployment, health disparities, incarceration and other issues.
“How the heck do you win if you don’t engage in the conversation?” Steele said.